Losing a baby is hard. Find out about miscarriage and stillbirth, and who can help and support you and your partner through this difficult time.
What is miscarriage?
Losing a baby during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy is called a miscarriage. This is fairly common – probably 1 or 2 out of every 10 pregnant women miscarry. There’s no reason for most miscarriages – it’s nobody’s fault. The signs of a miscarriage vary for each woman.
During the first few weeks of pregnancy, the only sign of miscarriage is bleeding that looks like a heavy period – so you might not even know you were pregnant. Later, miscarriage often includes cramps and bleeding. Once you know you are pregnant you should speak to your doctor or your midwife (or specialist doctor) if you have any bleeding from the vagina, or if you think you may be having – or have had – a miscarriage. Sometimes women bleed but do not miscarry, but all bleeding should be checked.
What is stillbirth?
Losing a baby after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy is called a stillbirth. About 1 in every 200 pregnancies ends in a stillbirth (and this number has been dropping in recent years).
Reducing the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth
Being healthy can help to reduce the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth. You should:
- avoid alcohol, smoking tobacco and cannabis, and taking drugs for anything other than health reasons (and be sure that any medicine you take for your health is safe in pregnancy)
- be active and eat a healthy diet
- be a healthy weight
- reduce stress and get enough sleep.
Coping with loss
The loss of a child is always hard on the woman, her partner and whānau. Miscarriage and stillbirth can take a long time to recover from. It is common to blame yourself and feel guilty. Having the right support around you will help you to deal with these feelings. Talking about your loss with your partner, whānau and friends may help with your grief.
You should speak to your midwife or your doctor about your feelings – they will be able to help and may refer you for further help if needed. This will help with your feelings of loss and any relationship problems you may have following the loss of your baby.
There are a number of organisations that can also support you and your partner following the loss of a baby:
- Sands New Zealand – a network of parent-run groups supporting whānau who have experienced the death of a baby
- Miscarriage Support – offers empathy, emotional and psychological peer support and information for all women who have experienced the loss of their babies, but particularly by miscarriage
- Skylight – bereavement support.